Utilitarianism essay a level


The nature of utilitarianism

Excellent summary of the utilitarian problem that once you pursue happiness or pleasure as an end in itself it tends to elude you. You need to mention a philosopher here such as Mill and ground the argument in what he says. Is it not true to say we can assess polices looking backwards with hindsight because all the consequences are known, but not forwards when there are often unintended consequences?

This paragraph is too general to be of much analytical quality — make sure you go straight into a philosophical theory. On the other hand, rule utilitarianism appears to offer a resolution.

If one chooses to implement a pre-determined set of rules e. But when moral dilemmas occur we revert to being act utilitarians. This kind of comment is irrelevant to the question and a waste of time. Undoubtedly, he was also a great social reformer, basing his beliefs on the underlying principle of egalitarianism i. This paragraph is a good example of the kind of paragraph a highly analytical essay never contains because you are merely describing the life and times of Mr Bentham and not adding anything to the argument.

Visualise a situation in which the hedonic calculus is being employed.

Part I. Normative ethics

Mark Smith. Utilitarianism essay. Jeremy Bentham's theory of utilitarianism states that when you make a decision, you should make this decision on how many. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory of morality (contrasted with a deontological theory). Utilitarianism was first thought of by Jeremy Bentham, and put to paper in his book, 'An Introduction . Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays.

In such a case, the intensity quality of the perceived happiness must be acknowledged. However, one of these individuals appears to gain a disproportionately high intensity of pleasure on receiving food, despite all other individuals being of an equally critical state of health e.

The most valid counterargument to which is proposed by the British philosopher Derek Parfit, arguing that the scale of happiness should be seen as asymptotic rather than linear. Hence, such a being is not conceivable. Again a good point and actually illustrating what economists call the principle of diminishing marginal utility — we eventually have less and less satisfaction as an individual until at some point we experience no satisfaction at all. Or, to some extent, the intensity of happiness could thereby be omitted from the hedonic calculus to account for the utility monster.

Thus if one cannot agree on what is good, how can one try to promote good? This problem can be avoided by using the preference approach. Secondly, by using the preference approach, Hare's theory avoids the traditional problem regarding the quantification of utility. If we take into consideration people's preferences to decides if an action is right or wrong, then we would not need to determine the quality of pleasure or distinguish between higher and lower pleasures Hare's preference utilitarianism allows us to measure preference utility more objectively by devising a utility scale to measure the relative strength and intensity of individual and the group preferences.

This procedure is being used in voting and survey practices in which polls are taken to ascertain the preferred candidate for public office. Though he admits that exact calculations of utilities are impossible 20 , Hare nevertheless insists that is possible to:.

Jeremy Bentham: Political Activist and English Philosopher

This was an unsparing criticism of some introductory passages relating to political theory in William Blackstone 's Commentaries on the Laws of England. That assumption is probably optimistic. This is an example of what I would class as a good introduction. Selby-Bigge ed. Property rights encourage people to be productive because they enable people to capture the benefits of their productive efforts.

In shall not, from now on, elaborate on the quantification problems in Hare's preference utilitarianism, or utilitarianism in general, for I do agree with Hare and Smart that it is indeed possible to, at least, roughly estimate the utility of an action or the preferences of the people. After all, that is what we do in our daily lives and our factual and moral reasoning.

We weight the pros and cons of an action and act on it. It is what economists, politicians and entrepreneurs do and it is at least possible, to a limited extend, to know what makes others happy, what is good, what benefits others or what others would prefer by putting ourselves in their place.

Thirdly, Hare's two levels of moral thinking "apparently" allows us to overcome many of the common intuitionist objections against utilitarianism such as the charge of rule worship, immorality, neglect of special responsibilities, duties and obligations, distributive injustice and the infringement of natural and moral rights.

Assess utilitarianism. (25 Marks).

Hare has made an important and illuminating distinction between two levels of moral thinking; for we indeed do our moral thinking in this way. We are conditioned, socialized or educated sometimes consciously but most of the time unconsciously through following the way things are done around us into believing that various acts or classes of acts are right, or wrong, just or unjust. We intuitively hold these moral judgements or principles without much reflection and are perfectly and honestly convinced that it is the right thing to do.

Thus, our intuitions are derived through education and have been tested sufficiently in the past which shows that there are good utilitarian reasons for obeying them. They tell us what the right and wrong actions are in simple moral situations Simple moral situations are situations involving the murder, torture and mutilation of the innocent. They are situations which involve a deep moral prohibition against the above acts of simple evil because such acts are detrimental to the attainment of the good life by the moral agent because such acts undermine the minimum requirement of conditions necessary for the moral agent's attainment of the good life and such acts are what harm human beings always, everywhere, under all circumstances and are thus always evil.

Hare's practical syllogism allows us to recognize which moral situations are simple ones or what Hare calls "usual cases" by stipulating that all acts or situations possessing the morally relevant feature mentioned in the moral situations which prescribe an action or a prohibition.

For example,. P[1]: All acts of murder are immoral and we ought not to do immoral acts.

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P[2]: Act 'X' is an act of murder. On: Therefore Act 'X' is immoral and we ought no to do it.

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Thus is easy in simple moral situations or usual cases to recognize if an act is morally wrong or not. However, in more complex moral situations like pre-marital or extra-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, etc. Firstly, there may be no existing moral rules telling us what to do and, secondly, our moral intuitions or judgments may conflict. In such cases, we do think critically and decide explicitly on a course of action and implicitly on a moral principle by weighing the pros and cons of each alternative and thinking critically.

My agreement with Hare only goes as far as what I have mentioned. This is because one must note that thinking critically does not necessarily mean thinking in a utilitarian or preference utilitarian. Hare tells us that at the critical level, in a making a moral judgment, we must take into consideration people's preferences and desires as relevant facts to decide on what action is moral but he has produced no reason, whatsoever, for treating them as uniquely relevant A defender of Hare might say that not to fulfill or satisfy people's preferences is to do evil to them but surely this is untrue since, as Bernard Williams noted, people often want, prefer or desire the wrong thing Thus although I have no doubt that we often need to take into consideration the consequences of our actions on others especially their preferences and desires , that is not all we need to take into consideration.

Hare does mention that there are other "facts" but he does not tell us what they are. He only goes into a detailed description of the way to evaluate people's preferences thus implying that they are uniquely relevant.

Ethics for A-Level - Chapter 1. Utilitarianism - Open Book Publishers

Surely "objective" moral principles those regarding simple good and evil which Hare denies exist at all, people's past histories, past experiences and relationships are just as relevant as considerations to be taken into account in moral judgments as consequences of actions or preferences Note that these past histories, experiences, etc. Take, for example, the case where a person murders another innocent man in cold blood so that he can claim some insurance money. Would this not be regarded as a simple moral situation and would the action not be condemned as immoral simply on the basis of its violating an "objective" moral principle of "one ought never to murder an innocent man no matter what the circumstances?

One of the aims of morality is to minimize the amount of simple evil and this a desirable goal because it gives us the minimum condition for attaining good lives not only for others but for ourselves too ; for how can we attain good lives for ourselves in a Hobbesian state of nature? These "objective" moral principles not in the sense of having a 'moral sense' or divine revelation but rather in the sense of being unconsciously acquired from others around us - our friend, teachers, parents, seeing how things are done, etc.

PHILOSOPHY - Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1 [HD]

Take another example. Imagine that one day, I find out that my sister husband is having an affair with another woman.

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Whether my brother-in-law's action of adultery is judged as morally right or wrong would not only depend on his and his wife's preferences but also on the number of years and the type of relationship that my sister and her husband have, the socially accepted forms of behavior, their past histories and experiences together, etc If her husband had always ill-treated her or had constant affairs with other women from the moment he married her, then perhaps the husband could be judge as being immoral.

But if this is the first indiscretion that he has committed and he has always been very loving toward her, perhaps this is just what Hare calls a "weakness of will" or a moment of weakness. Thus her husband might not be judged as being as immoral as in the former case.

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If, on the other hand, his wife too has had her fair share of affairs, then I would not, so clearly, condemn his actions as wrong! My moral judgment certainly is based on more than just the husband's or wife's preferences. I has to do with what kind of relationship they have and had with each other, their past histories, etc. What I am purporting in this paper is that morality is not a simple as Hare make it out to be. We cannot always cash out moral judgments in terms of people's preferences only because morality is not like that.

In life, we often do need to make moral judgments but these judgments are not so easily determined. Many moral situations in life are like those above - "complex moral situations" where our moral intuitions may conflict or we may not have adequate moral intuitions to deal with these situations Hare is right in telling us that our moral intuitions are not equipped to help us deal with such situations.

In these situations particularly in moral situations involving intimate personal relationships, like the one above, which I believe form the bulk of the moral situations we encounter in life because moral situations normally occur with people we come in contact with or are close with , preferences are not the only considerations in making a moral judgement.

Our past histories, experiences, other's experiences, personal relationship, the socially accepted norms of behaviors, etc, all do count in determining moral judgements in complex moral situation. Moral is like that in real life - it is a complex thing. Hare has oversimplified it. Principles of Morals and Legislation. By following general principles, rules and intuitions we are more likely over the course of our lives to make the decisions that we ought to make than by doing a utilitarian calculation on every occasion. Given this, we should normally rely on general principles when making moral decisions, but in exceptional conditions it is permissible to depart from the intuitive level to the critical one and weigh up which action will produce the most utility.